Senate Democrats press Biden to do more on Gaza ‘medical crisis’

A group of Senate Democrats is calling on President Biden to take more action to address the humanitarian issues in the Gaza Strip, arguing the U.S. has the resources to provide more aid and prevent “further suffering” of civilians.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Peter Welch (Vt.) asked Biden to “drastically increase” the supply of medicine and medical equipment going into Gaza to “address the medical crisis” there.

“The crisis on the ground has only worsened after Israeli raids on hospitals, and continued fighting has created fuel shortages that put hospitals out of commission,” the letter stated. “Doctors now worry that their only options are ‘displacement, detention or death.’”

The senators referenced a series of anecdotes from Americans and medical personnel.

“Medical staff are treating patients on the floor instead of beds and working ceaselessly for as long as two weeks, all while bombs and gunfire can be heard nearby” and as “mass casualties” come in waves “at least three or four times a night,” they wrote.

They suggested the U.S. quickly mobilize airlifts of medicine and medical equipment to the remaining functional hospitals and asked the Biden administration to “seek absolute assurances” the Israeli government will “protect medical infrastructure and personnel.”

The Hill reached out to the White House for comment.

Pressure on Israel to take more caution in protecting civilian lives and allowing aid into Gaza ramped up earlier this week after seven aid workers were killed in an Israeli airstrike while delivering food supplies in Gaza.

The workers, who were with the World Central Kitchen, were leaving a warehouse in central Gaza in two armored cars on Monday, when the strike hit. They had delivered 100 tons of food aid to the warehouse shortly before.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took responsibility for the deadly strike Tuesday and said it was a “tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip.”

The war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas has raged on for nearly six months following Hamas’s surprise incursion in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Hamas’s attacks killed more than 1,100 people in Israel, while around 250 others were taken hostage.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 32,700 people since early October, per The Associated Press, and devastated swaths of neighborhoods, buildings and hospitals.

Humanitarian organizations have repeatedly warned of depleting resources in the enclave. A report from the United Nations’s World Food Programme released last month stated 1.1 million in the territory have completely exhausted their food supplies and are dealing with catastrophic hunger.

The senators on Wednesday asked the Biden administration to lay out the capabilities the U.S. has to meet their demands, which also included deploying the Navy’s hospital ships to the eastern Mediterranean, coordinating the transportation of severely injured Palestinians and creating field hospitals in North Gaza and Egypt.

“Israel has the right to pursue Hamas terrorists who carried out the horrific attacks on October 7, but it must comply with international law,” the senators wrote.

“The combination of Israeli restrictions on access to humanitarian aid and the harm caused by relentless bombing and shelling has devastated Gaza’s healthcare capacities at a time when the need for urgent care is soaring. It is critical that the United States leverage its unique capabilities to urgently and dramatically ramp up medical support to the people of Gaza,” they continued.

Biden, who said earlier this week that Israel has “not done enough” to protect aid workers and civilians in Gaza, is expected to speak with Netanyahu on Thursday.

“I am hopeful that when the president talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he will be making it clear that support for the actions of the prime minister are not … he’s not helping Israel,” Warren said in an interview on “CNN News Central” on Thursday. “He is not keeping Israel safe, and he cannot … continue a policy of trying to starve out the people of Gaza, that he loses support all around the world.”

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